Clinton Harding's Reviews > The Black Prism

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
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Aug 28, 2012

really liked it
Read from July 30 to August 28, 2012

A slow start (the first quarter of the novel) almost had me putting the book down but once things picked up and the plot twisted I did not want to jump off the rollercoaster.

At first "The Black Prism" seems like your average high fantasy novel. But there is much more going on. Weeks has channeled a little of Martin's ability and woven a plot together that has a lot of political intrigue and constant backstabbing and surprises. Once Weeks turns everything you know on its head, the story opens up and becomes engrossing.

All of the characters are likable regardless of their faults, Weeks defining everyone by his or her flaws more than strengths. What strikes me as consistent in Week's writing is his portrayal of women. In his Night Angel series and this novel, the women shoved to the forefront of the action are strong and capable, none are damsels but they retain their femininity despite how hard they must come across in a male-dominated world. For those familiar with the Night Angel trilogy, Karriss is very much like Vi; in fact, Karriss spends most of the novel trying to separate herself from this damsel in distress , pretty flower image the bards and signers in the Seven Satrapies' have painted her in.

What I enjoyed most was the setting. There is a swashbuckling feel to the world. Imagine the Three Musketeers married with Lord of the Rings and you have an idea of what I'm talking about. This is a pre-industrial age. Soldiers use pistols and muskets (gunpowder weapons) as much as blade weapons. The world also has knowledge of gears, pullies and mechanisms. There is a panache and swagger to the Seven Satrapies that 1600's Paris had. And speaking of the Three Musketeers, there is a big plot point and twist that seems to me is lifted from Dumas' definitive work. It was a cool similarity I enjoyed tying together, whether the author intended such I have no clue. Again, kinda an old cliché but Weeks makes that aspect of the novel his own.

Of course what sets "The Black Prism" world apart is the magic system, a system revolving around colors and light. Silly when first you think about it but Weeks has built in limitation to the system that are believable. This is more of a tangible type of magic, wherein a user creates objects or effects by using colored luxin (the residue left by light, if you will). Weeks has to explain his system in detail and this takes away from the action at times... hardcore high fantasy should expect these deviation from any novel establishing a unique set of magic rules.

Overall, "Black Prism" is an exciting adventure that tries to do something new and succeeds. I would say if you're a fan of Brandon Sanderson's work check out Brent Weeks and "The Black Prism".
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